Heron of Alexandria

(fl. c. 62 CE, Alexandria, Egypt) Heron (or Hero) of Alexandria was a Greek geometer and inventor whose writings preserved for posterity a knowledge of the mathematics and engineering of Babylonia, ancient Egypt, and the Greco-Roman world. Heron’s most important geometric work, Metrica, was lost until 1896. It is a…

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Imhotep

(b. 27th century BCE, Memphis, Egypt) Imhotep (Greek: Imouthes) was a vizier, sage, architect, astrologer, and chief minister to Djoser (reigned 2630–2611 BCE), the second king of Egypt’s third dynasty, who was later worshipped as the god of medicine in Egypt and in Greece, where he was identified with the…

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Cai Lun

(b. 62? CE, Guiyang [now Leiyang, in present-day Hunan province], China-d. 121, China) Cai Lun (courtesy name [zi] Jingzhong) was a Chinese court official who is traditionally credited with the invention of paper. Cai Lun was a eunuch who entered the service of the imperial palace in 75 CE and…

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James Watt

(b. Jan. 19, 1736, Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scot.-d. Aug. 25, 1819, Heathfield Hall, near Birmingham, Warwick, Eng.) James Watt was a Scottish instrument maker and inventor whose steam engine contributed substantially to the Industrial Revolution. He was elected fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1785. Education and Training Watt’s…

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Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

(b. Oct. 24, 1632, Delft, Neth.-d. Aug. 26, 1723, Delft) Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was a Dutch microscopist who was the first to observe bacteria and protozoa. His researches on lower animals refuted the doctrine of spontaneous generation, and his observations helped lay the foundations for the sciences of bacteriology and…

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Benjamin Franklin

(b. Jan. 17 [Jan. 6, Old Style], 1706, Boston, Mass. [now in U.S.]-d. April 17, 1790, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.) Benjamin Franklin was an American printer and publisher, author, inventor and scientist, and diplomat. One of the foremost of the Founding Fathers, Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence and was…

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Cro-Magnon

Cro-Magnon was a population of early Homo sapiens dating from the Upper Paleolithic Period (c. 40,000 to c. 10,000 years ago) in Europe. In their ancient cave habitations they left behind traces of ingenious stone tools, carved statuettes and figurines, and painted scenes of striking beauty that are considered to…

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Archimedes

(b. c. 290–280 BCE, Syracuse, Sicily [now in Italy]-d. 212/211 BCE, Syracuse) The most famous mathematician of ancient Greece, Archimedes is especially important for his discovery of the relation between the surface and volume of a sphere and its circumscribing cylinder and for his formulation of a hydrostatic principle (known…

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Christiaan Huygens

(b. April 14, 1629, The Hague, Neth.-d. July 8, 1695, The Hague) Christiaan Huygens (or Christian Huyghens) was a Dutch mathematician, astronomer, and physicist who founded the wave theory of light, discovered the true shape of the rings of Saturn, and made original contributions to the science of dynamics-the study…

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Johannes Gutenberg

(b. 14th century, Mainz [now in Ger.]-d. probably Feb. 3, 1468, Mainz) Johann Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg was a German craftsman and inventor who originated a method of printing from movable type that was used without important change until the 20th century. The unique elements of his invention consisted…

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